Durham police officers accused of not properly disposing weapons

jwise@newsobserver.comApril 23, 2014 

— An undisclosed number of Durham police officers have been disciplined after an internal affairs investigation found they had “retained” parts of firearms that were supposed to have been destroyed.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said the investigation was “completed a few weeks ago” but withheld further comment until he could talk with attorneys about what state personnel privacy laws let him make public.

Police Chief Jose L. Lopez also declined to comment.

“I can’t speak to that,” Lopez said.

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael provided a formal statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The Durham Police Department conducted a self-initiated investigation into whether proper procedures were followed in the handling of property in the department’s possession. State personnel privacy laws prevent the department from releasing further details related to this investigation.”

According to the city personnel office, at least one officer, Capt. Kevin Cates, a 20-year veteran of the Durham police force, was suspended without pay April 7 for “rules violation,” but further details of the suspension, including its duration, are confidential under state law, according to Kirby Smith of the city Human Resources Department. Bonfield said he did not know and Michael said she could not say whether Cates’ suspension was related to the firearms investigation.

Mayor Bill Bell said Bonfield had told him that officers had been disciplined for not properly disposing of firearms, but had no further comment. District Attorney Leon Stanback said he had not heard of the matter.

According to the Police Department’s current standard operating procedure, metal weapons, including guns, that police hold under state law, court order or department directive are to be “destroyed by damaging the weapon into a state of uselessness as a weapon.”

After police property personnel have cataloged guns and received permission from the district attorney, and the Police Department’s legal department has acquired a court order, a destruction date is scheduled, the written procedure states.

Police property room personnel are then required to transport weapons to Hollmet Recycle in Raleigh, “or other approved location,” for destruction, accompanied by a member of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and a Special Operations Division member.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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